Kearsney Court (also known as Russell Gardens / Bushy Ruff)1878

Dover, England, Kent, Dover

Brief Description

The house and gardens at Kearsney Court both date from the late-19th century. The gardens were designed by Thomas Mawson. The gardens and grounds are maintained as a public park and feature a serpentine ornamental lake.

History

The building of the house was started in 1899 by Mr. Leney, a brewer. The house was completed about 1900, and the grounds were laid out at about the same time.

Visitor Facilities

Ownership of the site is split. Dover District Council owns the majority of the grounds, run as a local authority park (Russell Gardens). However, the house and immediate grounds are divided between several private owners. Russell Gardens is open daily as a local authority park. There is no access to the house and adjacent terraces. Please see: http://www.dover.gov.uk/parks/parks-russell.asp

Terrain

The site runs uphill to the north from a valley-bottom stream, its northern half steeply so.

Detailed Description

Today most of the grounds are maintained as a popular public park. The main structural features remain, including the long ornamental pond with its associated red brick buildings and framework, although the lily pond has been converted to a sunken garden and the croquet lawn is now part of the tennis courts area. The sweeps of lawns are generously interspersed with tree specimens and the character of the steep, terraced terrain provides further interest.

The raised semi-circular terraces directly behind the house are privately owned. The original terraces and linking staircases remain, although some wooden balustrading has been lost. Of special interest is the box ‘lawn' along one terrace. There is also a semi-circular golden yew hedge around a small circular pool, whose original fountain is still in working order.

There is a beautiful area of lakes and walks beyond the formal gardens to the west, and a higher terrace above the lakes which reveals a cedar group and daisy-studded lawns. There are yellow butterflies on the woodland edge. The site is peaceful, pretty and natural, apart from sounds from nearby road. This area is much less frequented than the Abbey Park, across the road. There are views across the valley to countryside of green slopes and wooded hills beyond, with pine trees in the foreground.

Kearnsey Abbey Park lies across the road and is a pleasant public park with lake, swans, fine trees on the lawns and some remains of the original abbey. A Gothic revival house of 1822 used to stand beside the lake, and now just the conservatory remains as a café. It is very plain outside, but a treasure trove within. There is wood panelling, most pleasing stained glass and griffons with shields supporting a vaulted roof.

The following is from the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. For the most up-to-date Register entry, please visit the The National Heritage List for England (NHLE):

www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list

The landscape around Kearsney Court, laid out about 1900, was one of the first independent commissions by Thomas Mawson, the leading landscape designer of the early 20th century. It was designed to provide an appropriate setting - almost a park in miniature with ambitious terraced gardens, wider park-like grounds, a kitchen garden and appurtenances like stables and lodges - for a manufacturer's new residence in the countryside just outside Dover. Clearly Mawson himself viewed the commission as a success, including several plates of the landscape in his The Art & Craft of Garden Making.

DESCRIPTION

LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING

Kearsney Court stands in above the hamlet of Kearsney in Temple Ewell, on the north-west fringe of Dover. The site, as here designated, occupies a site running uphill to the north from a valley-bottom stream, its northern half steeply so. The boundaries of the site follow the B2060 Alkham Road to the south; fence lines running through the steeply sloping woodland to the north of the house; and to the west again a fence line. From the house, close to the north edge of the site, there are views of about 2km across the valley, originally to farmland but now to secondary woodland. The setting remains fairly rural, certainly that is the sense within the grounds, although there has been some piecemeal development around and within the edge of the site. The last comprises six detached houses built off the south side of the drive to the west of South Lodge in the mid-late C20. They are excluded from the designated area.

ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES

The grounds are entered from an entrance at their eastern extremity. The is marked by two pairs of sturdy, square-sectioned 2.5m high brick and tile gate posts with concrete half-ball tops incised to resemble ashlar. The piers define the main vehicular access (the gates across which are lost) and pedestrian wicket gates to either side. The wickets have identical white-painted wooden gates, either those shown in a c.1907 photo (Mawson 1907) or close copies. Behind, a pair of identical two-storey, L-plan lodges, North Lodge and South Lodge, of about 1900 face each other across the start of the drive. These are two-storey L-plan buildings in a simple Arts and Crafts style each with a large bay window projecting, toll house-style, towards the drive. From here the drive curves upwards for 150m before levelling out and straightening for the final 80m approach to the house. The drive now stops short of the house at a row of C20 garages (not of historic interest) and a parking area. Originally it continued to a porte cochere (removed) on the north side of the house. PRINCIPAL BUILDING Kearsney Court (not listed) is aligned east-west close to the northern boundary of its grounds, which fall steeply away to the south. The original plans, which were for a rather severe gothic house, were amended and softened by a local firm of architects, Worsfold and Hayward of Dover. It comprises an irregular, two-storey, 50m-long building. On the main south front three short gabled wings project forward at either end of the main house and at the centre; west of the west gable is the former service wing. Architectural detailing includes full-height bay windows to the central and eastern gabled wings, and a balcony supported on wooden pillars between the central and western wings. The latter has a large ground-floor bay window. At the north-east corner of the house is a three-storey turret with an elaborate conical roof with dormer windows from an observation room. Internally the house was well- appointed with good quality carpentry and fittings. Inevitably various alterations were made when the house was subdivided c.1950 but its external appearance and essential character remains little altered.

150m east of the house is its former stables, built c.1900 and converted in the C20 to The Gables, a substantial two-storey ashlar and flint house with decorative timber-framed gable.

GARDENS AND PLEASURE GROUNDS

Mawson's plan for the gardens and grounds was apparently executed as intended, and comprises a series of formal terraces dropping steeply away from the house to a lower pleasure ground with a large formal Canal Pond. The grounds are arranged about a central axis aligned on the balcony between the central and western gabled wings of the house.

A narrow terrace runs along the south front of the house, now mainly of grass and partly subdivided by hedges planted since the house was split up c.1950.The terrace is bounded by a balcony of arcaded brickwork, topped with half-round bricks in which are set short iron rods supporting a chain. The rods and chains do not appear on early photos of the gardens (e.g. Mawson 1907) and were presumably introduced in the C20 as a safety feature. From the centre of the terrace angles flights of stairs lead left and right down to the next terrace, with a seating alcove between them. The wall which supports the uppermost terrace stands some 3m tall, and is broken into bays by buttresses. Originally both it and the other terrace walls were planted with pear trees grafted on to quince stock (Gardeners' Chronicle 28 June 1913, 438). At either end bastion-like sections with angle buttresses project slightly forward. As part of the subdivision of the property c.1950 additional access was provided between the uppermost terrace and the next by means of two steel fire escape-like stairs, one either side of the main flight of stairs. The second terrace is again narrow, and was fronted by white-painted wooden rails and balusters (both missing) set between brick buttress piers rising from the terrace wall. From this terrace the main flights of stairs angle back to the third terrace which is broad, grassed, fronted by a golden yew hedge and with clipped yew balls against the brick terrace wall behind. The central path leads via steps to the fourth terrace, to the rear of which is a shallow-ramped flower bed and to the front stubby brick piers with stone ball cappings linked by chains. This terrace overlooks one of the centrepieces of the garden, the Bastion, a semi-circular garden with central pool again supported to the front by a substantial 2m high brick wall. The interior of the Bastion is now lawned, although the lines of its original gravel paths and flower beds can still be clearly made out.

The view from the Bastion south is now lost, as tall secondary woodland has been allowed to grow up immediately beyond along what, since 1950, has been the boundary between the grounds of Kearsney Court and the Russell Gardens public park which now occupies the lower southern part of the pleasure grounds. The axial steps lead first to a rectangular formal pool (now dry and somewhat dilapidated) set between fenced grass tennis courts. These occupy an area intended by Mawson to be divided between tennis courts and slightly larger croquet lawns. South of the tennis courts is one of the main features of the grounds, a long, formal canal, the Canal Pond, made by Mawson along the swampy ground of a stream bed. Measuring 160m long from east to west and 15m wide and with a expanded circular central section, the Pond is closed at either end by ornamental covered bridges (or summerhouses; early C20 accounts vary in their terminology), Arts and Crafts interpretations of Palladian antecedents. That to the west carries the stream into the Pond via a 'chute', a shallow flight of semi-circular steps. At the centre of the south side of the Pond is a boathouse of identical character comprising a summerhouse with white-painted pillars to the front and a hipped time roof over a simple brick basement with arched boat entrance to the front. East of the Canal Pond was what in 1902 was described as a bog and rock garden (Builders Formal and Architectural Record 1902, 371).

West of the tennis courts is a children's playground with apparatus and a brick public lavatory of the mid C20, while immediately south-west of the courts is a shelter, rebuilt in the late C20 as a pergola-like structure with brick piers.

To either side of the tennis courts and the Canal Pond are informal lawns and paths with, especially in the western half of the grounds, mature specimen trees presumably mainly introduced c.1900.

KITCHEN GARDEN

Mawson's design included a substantial walled kitchen garden, located on south-facing ground to the south-east of the house and aligned on it and its gardens. Measuring 90m east-west by 40m it is surrounded by tall, well-detailed, brick walls with angle buttresses with an ornamental entrance with double wooden doors under a pedimented arch in the west wall. The garden was divided into four, with an ornamental water tank at the centre. At the east end of the garden there were extensive glasshouses including vinery, peach house and heated pits; the Gardeners' Chronicle in 1913 recorded that previously (suggesting that Mawson's scheme was already being simplified) 8,000 bedding plants were raised each year including 3,000 Perlargoniums. Against the inner face of the east wall is a modest gardener's cottage or bothy. Presumably when the house was subdivided the kitchen garden lost its original function and became the private garden of the former gardener's cottage, which it remains in 2006. The head gardener's house of c.1900, a single-storey part flint-walled house with a timber-framed gable and red tile roof (originally The Bungalow, now Courtland Cottage), stands 50m north-east of the cottage.

REFERENCES

Builders Formal and Architectural Record (1902), p 371

T.H. Mawson, The Art & Craft of Garden Making (1907 edition)

Architectural Review (August 1910), pp 71-2

Gardeners' Chronicle (28 June 1913), p 438

G. Jellicoe et al, The Oxford Companion to Gardens (1991)

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Maps

OS 6" to 1 mile: 1st edition, published 1867; 2nd edition 1899; 3rd edition 1908; 4th edition 1938

Site plan published in Mawson 1907

Description written: November 2006

Features

Style

  • Informal
  • Ornamental Lake
  • Description: The main structural features remain, including the long ornamental pond with its associated red brick buildings and framework.
  • House (featured building)
  • Description: The red brick house is heavily gabled and has a circular turret at the corner adjacent to the entrance drive.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Garden Terrace
  • Description: The raised semi-circular terraces directly behind the house are privately owned. The original terraces and linking staircases remain, although some wooden balustrading has been lost.
  • Garden Terrace
  • Description: Of special interest is the box `lawn? along one terrace.
  • Pool
  • Description: There is also a semi-circular golden yew hedge around a small circular pool, whose original fountain is still in working order.
  • Fountain
  • Description: There is also a semi-circular golden yew hedge around a small circular pool, whose original fountain is still in working order.
Access & Directions

Access Contact Details

Ownership of the site is split. Dover District Council owns the majority of the grounds, run as a local authority park (Russell Gardens). However, the house and immediate grounds are divided between several private owners. Russell Gardens is open daily as a local authority park. There is no access to the house and adjacent terraces. Please see: http://www.dover.gov.uk/parks/parks-russell.asp

Directions

The site is located two miles north-west of Dover on the B2060 road to Folkestone.
Authorities

Civil Parish

  • Temple Ewell
History

Detailed History

The building of the house was started in 1898 by Mr. Leney, a brewer. When he became ill he sold the unfinished house to Mr. Barlow, who completed it and engaged Thomas Mawson to lay out the gardens. The red brick house is heavily gabled and has a circular turret at the corner adjacent to the entrance drive. On Barlow's death in 1914 the house and grounds belonged to a Mr Johnson, until 1929 when it was bought by a London-based concern as a home for alcoholics.

Kearnsey Court is of considerable importance in the more recent garden history, since it is one of the few gardens surviving in Kent designed by the garden architect Thomas Mawson. Mawson is now seen as an important contributor to the garden design period 1900-1920.A copy of the original plans of the garden came to light during the study by R. Jackson of Wye College. These we understand are held by Mr R Harding, one of the residents of the main house. He has initiated research into the history of these gardens. A reduced copy is included in R. Jackson's study at Wye College.

The following is from the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. For the most up-to-date Register entry, please visit the The National Heritage List for England (NHLE):

www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list

HISTORIC DEVELOPMENT

Kearsney Court was planned in 1899 for Alfred Leney, a brewer and drinks manufacturer. The site chosen was on rising ground above the hamlet of Kearsney, the northern half of which was occupied by Palmtree Hill Plantation and the lower open ground. However, the project was soon sold on to Edward Percy Barlow, the owner of Wiggins Teape, a paper manufacturer. The house was completed about 1900, and at about the same time - the Canal Pond summerhouses were still under construction in 1902 (Builders Formal and Architectural Record 1902, 371) - the grounds were laid out by Thomas Mawson (1861-1933), perhaps the leading, and certainly the most prolific, landscape designer of his day. This was probably one of Mawson's earliest independent commissions, and it was probably an erroneous attribution, a decade later by the Gardeners' Chronicle (28 June 1913, 438), to Messrs. Mawson Bros. of Windermere, the family firm he had recently broken away from. Several set-piece photographs of Kearnsey were included in Mawson's main account of his life's work, The Art & Craft of Garden Making which appeared in five editions between 1900 and 1926. On Barlow's death in 1912 the property passed to Mr. Johnstone, a London newspaper man, and was later a nursing home and, in the Second World War, a military hospital. About 1950 the whole estate was bought by a development company; the main house was split into seven residential freeholds, and later several new houses were erected off the main drive. Part of the grounds (including the lowest third of the formal gardens) was acquired by the local authority for a park (now known as Russell Gardens), but overall the essential character of the site remains unaltered.

Associated People
Contact

Telephone

01793 445050

Official Website

Other websites

Owners

  • Dover District Council

    White Cliffs Business Park, Dover, Kent, CT16 3PJ
  • Private owners

    Kearsney Court, CT16 3EB
References

References